Lt. Clay Crabb, a 15-year veteran with the Austin Police Department killed in a wreck on his way to work Wednesday, was remembered by his colleagues as a devoted Aggie who loved children and his job.
It was still dark and raining when the 42-year-old father of three lost control of the black unmarked police cruiser he was driving east on U.S. 290 near Sawyer Ranch Road near Dripping Springs, officials said. The car hydroplaned and veered into oncoming traffic, officials said, when a red pickup traveling west slammed into it about 6:30 a.m.
The driver of the truck did not suffer any life-threatening injuries, said DPS senior trooper Harpin Myers, but Crabb was pronounced dead at the scene. Patrol cars escorted his body from the crash site several hours later.
Officials did not say whether or not Crabb was wearing a seat belt.
"This is a great reminder to all of us of how fragile life is," said Assistant Chief Raul Munguia, who was flanked by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Manager Marc Ott and Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald at a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters. Chief Art Acevedo was in Philadelphia for a convention and was expected to fly back Thursday.
Crabb was well-respected in the department, where he most recently worked as the operations lieutenant in the South substation, officials said. After serving nearly four years with the San Angelo Police Department, he joined the Austin force in July 1998, patrolling the South Congress Avenue and Ben White Boulevard areas with his partner, Kenneth Casaday.
"He and I worked South Congress when it was infested with drugs and prostitution," he said. "I would like to think that we made South Congress what it is today, which is a great place to live and work."
Crabb and Casaday shared every dinner with each other for the five years they were on patrol together before Crabb started working in the child abuse division and, later, in the special investigations unit. He was eventually promoted to sergeant in a sector that covered the southeast portion of the city before becoming a lieutenant.
He earned 16 commendations and awards while on the force, including the Superior Service Citation, Safe Driving Ribbon with a Silver Star, Academic Achievement Ribbon with Diamond and Master Peace Officer Ribbon.
In his most recent evaluation, his supervisors described Crabb's performance as "exceptional," giving him high marks in criteria ranging from accountability to judgment.
"Crabb is a dedicated street supervisor who puts great effort into ensuring calls are handled in a professional and timely manner," the evaluation says. "He continuously monitors calls and is quick to respond and provide supervision and guidance on serious incidents."
Other evaluations praise Crabb for encouraging other officers to better themselves, for asking for clarification if directions from his chain of command are unclear and for taking responsibility when he made a mistake.
"He is a valued member of the team and is very well liked by his peers due to his outgoing personality and great sense of humor," says an evaluation from 2004-05, when Crabb was a detective with the child abuse unit.
"Everyone has a heavy, heavy heart right now," Casaday said Wednesday. "I couldn't say enough about him."
Leffingwell said that the city will provide assistance to the family, which has asked for privacy, and that city flags will be flown half-mast half-staff in his honor. No memorial service or arrangements had been arranged by Wednesday evening.
"Forty-three years old, three small children and a wife, a good career ahead of him -- it's truly a tragedy," Leffingwell said.
Donations can be made through the 100 Club of Central Texas and Austin Cops for Charities.
Copyright 2013 - Austin American-Statesman
McClatchy-Tribune News Service